A Grisly Anniversary
Published on: May 22, 2013
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  • Matthew Brotchie

    Professor Berger,
    First, I want to thank you for all the beautifully written and insightful work you have been doing here. I’ve quickly learned so much, all for free.

    I have been reading a lot of Philip Reiff lately, specifically his Deathwork series, and I am desperate to read your take on his views. It is everything you write about but in much starker terms.

    Thank you again.

  • wigwag

    It may also bear mentioning that Tim McVeigh detonated his bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in the bizarre attempt to extract revenege against the Federal Government for its attack on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco. Unless I am mistaken, the Oaklahoma City bombing killed more than 150 people and injured hundreds more. I’m not sure, but I think McVeigh timed the bombing to coincide with the storming of the Waco compound. The Oaklahoma City bombing was the most devastating terrorist attack on American soil with the exception of the September 11th tragedy.

  • ljgude

    I have always thought that the fire was probably suicide for the simple reason that it was obvious to me in the weeks leading up to the end that Koresch was bent on going out in a blaze of glory. I had assumed that the Feebs had psychologists who were advising them on how to avoid this kind of trap. I was shocked to discover that what seemed obvious to me, was apparently totally lost on the bureaucratic besiegers. Also I find that conflating Jonestown with right wing religious nuts astounding. Jim Jones willed the sect’s property to the Soviet Union and was in his own mind a communist. I have no idea of Koresh’s politics or if he even had any, but what he has in common with Jones is that they were quite literally religious nuts. I wouldn’t hang their deeds on either garden variety communists or religious conservatives, both of whom are quite sane by comparison. That said an interesting side light to the Waco situation is that I believe the US Government is prevented by law from using military special operators in a domestic situation. Compare the way the SAS handled the Iranian embassy siege in London.

  • Inga Leonova

    Dear Peter, have you read John Updike’s novel “In the Beauty of the Lilies”? I happen to consider it one of his best; it is certainly my favorite. If you haven’t, it is a must, as I think it is by way of being a dialogue with many of your thoughts. Your post made me think of it because the last part of the book is very much related to the Waco story, but there is much more to the novel than that.

  • Wayne Lusvardi

    Dr. Berger’s story takes us on another one of his experiential sociological tours that provides greater understanding than any multiple regression analysis ever could.

    I lost a girl friend to cancer and ended up having to relocate her 82-year old mother from California to San Antonio, Texas in 2011. I made six trips there trying to assist in finding a new home for her.

    Coming from Los Angeles one of the most striking aspects of the Texas Bible-belt is its well-known “Southern hospitality.” Hospitality is a Christian virtue that, combined with the cultural continuity of a rural society, helps to make religion “far from fanaticism or violence” as Berger explains.

    In Los Angeles a waiter in a restaurant may remark “no problem!” when you thank them for their service. In San Antonio waiters say: “you’re welcome!” There is a whole worldview of difference in these two everyday cliches. In Los Angeles it is inferred that restaurant customers are either a problem or not a problem. In San Antonio, even possibly non-religious workers say: “you are welcome” to their customers. It seems to reflect not only Southern culture but also the pervasiveness of Bible belt Christianity.

    Which is the more tolerant place: Los Angeles or San Antonio? Offhand I would say Los Angeles is more class based and utilitarian in everyday interactions (following sociologist Max Weber’s rationalization of social organization and language).

    A case could be made that when the old agrarian based and slave economy of the Roman Empire died was when the South lost the U.S. Civil War; eventually to be replaced with an industrialized, rationalistic form of social order. But Southern culture and with it Christian norms and language has survived. And it makes for a unique form of tolerance combined with hospitality that would be harder to find in Los Angeles.

    A recent article in the Los Angeles Times “Wealthy, Business-Savvy Mexican Immigrants Transform Texas City” (March 24, 2013) describes how affluent Mexicans are moving their families to gated residential communities in San Antonio, not Los Angeles. Maybe it is because they find a “home-fulness” in San Antonio they can’t find in Los Angeles (see Berger’s “The Homeless Mind: Modernization and Consciousness”). Part of the home-fulness is probably the cultural value of hospitality.

    • Gary Novak

      I enjoyed your post. I moved from San Diego to Bible-belt Tulsa, Oklahoma when I retired four years ago, and my impressions of the cultural landscape agree completely with yours.

  • Inga Leonova

    Dear Peter, have you read John Updike’s novel “In the Beauty of the Lilies”? I think it is one of his finest; it is certainly my favorite. If you haven’t, I think you will enjoy it immensely as it is by way of being a dialogue with your thoughts. Part of it is related to the Waco tragedy, which is why your post made me remember it, but there is much more than that.

  • Grigalem

    The “regular” Seventh Day Adventists are vegetarian.

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